Illinois action blog

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ask the President to stand strong on birth control!

When the first Planned Parenthood clinic opened its doors in 1916, birth control was not only contentious, but legally banned.  Women had no autonomy over their bodies or the size of their families, and those who tried to change the status quo by providing contraception and information – including Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger – were often arrested and jailed.

Thankfully, a lot of things have changed for women since then – women can vote, sign contracts, have their own bank accounts, and initiate a divorce, to name a few.  Perhaps most importantly, women can space and limit the number of children they have, cutting down sharply on maternal and infant mortality rates.  We’d be hard-pressed to find someone out there who wouldn’t consider this progress.

Or so we thought, anyway.  It seems that many of today’s lawmakers and religious leaders are trying their best to bring women back to that time of restricted rights.  

First it was November 1’s House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing.  Rep. Joe Pitts (yes, that is the same Joe Pitts of anti-woman “Protect Life Act” notoriety), chairman of the subcommittee, convened the hearing to allow himself and fellow anti-choice legislators to speak in opposition to the recent Health and Human Services decision requiring birth control coverage without co-pay, which extends its benefits to all women regardless of income level.

Then it was the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which over the last few weeks has ramped up its pressure on President Obama to expand the already existing coverage exemption to disastrous new limits.  While churches and other religious institutions are already exempt from including birth control in employee health plans, the bishops are now calling for the same to apply to Catholic hospitals, charities, schools, colleges and universities – a change that would leave millions of women without coverage for contraception, regardless of their religious affiliation. These are nurses, teachers, janitors, and other workers who should not be discriminated against and denied a benefit that the vast majority of Americans will receive. There is already an unfair refusal provision in the women’s preventive benefit, which health advocates strongly oppose.‪‪


We think that Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said it best in her piece this week for the Huffington Post:

“99% of women in the U.S. who have been sexually active have used birth control. It's used by women of every demographic, every geographic location, every income level – and every religious group.”

So, to Rep. Pitts and his allies, here are a few things you should know, courtesy of that other 99%:

By fighting to take away birth control, you’re fighting against something that benefits millions of the women and families.  You’re fighting to take away something that the Institute of Medicine has linked to improved maternal health and that the American Medical Association has recognized as an integral part of medical practice since the 1930s.  You’re fighting against one of the best tools we have to cut down on unintended pregnancy, which more than half of all American women will experience by age 45.  

Anti-women leaders have made their voices heard, and now women and women’s health advocates need to do the same.  Planned Parenthood calls on supporters to stand up for birth control and urges President Obama to stand strong for this essential part of preventive care.  If you are one of the 71 percent of Americans who supports health plans covering birth control without co-pay, click here to send a letter to President Obama!

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